Why thigh gap is so important to women

They may make skinny jeans look sexy, but how far can you go to widen the distance between your thighs?

It's the body trend that's launched hundreds of blogs, Twitter IDs and memes in the west. While back home, the thigh gap may not have acquired cult status yet, cosmetic surgeons and gym trainers say young Indian women are eager to widen the distance between their inner thighs.

Do you have one?
Stand straight before a mirror with your back upright, your left and right knees touching each other. If you see space between your inner thighs, you've got yourself a thigh gap. Very few women manage to achieve this naturally, driving some to unnatural diets resulting in eating disorders. Most Indian women won't see one thanks to their genes.

Fitness experts Mirror spoke to, said Indian women are naturally blessed with child-bearing hips. "Compared to their counterparts in the west, Indian women have wider pelvic bones, making their thighs thicker. They are unlikely to have the gap naturally," says cosmetic surgeon Dr Abraham Zachariah, head of the cosmetology department at Marol's Seven Hills Hospital.

Fitness expert Leena Mogre agrees. "A majority of Indians have an endomorphic body type; typically short and stocky, prone to weight gain, especially around the hip and thigh area," she says.

Genesis of idea
It's one trend that can be directly linked to the way the world of fashion and entertainment lays down rules of an ideal body. Style bibles tell them they must be fashionistas. Nothing less than a Asos dress (or at least a rip-off) will do. And to fit into the latest styles, they must have the body for it. Counselors say it's up to parents to help their kids maintain a good body image. The idea they must drill into their girls is to eat healthy and be fit, rather than fashionably slim.

Fill into the gap
Mansi Astha, a physiotherapist and consultant at Santacruz's K11 Fitness Academy, says the gym regularly gets women aged 25 to 50, who are concerned about fat reduction in specific areas. After the abs, the thighs are their nightmare. "They want to look good in skinny jeans, short skirts and shorts outfits that focus attention on the legs. So, losing fat from their thighs is a pre-occupation," she says, adding that spot reduction is far from easy, if possible at all. "Each individual is prone to fat accumulation in a different area. This also happens to be the last area from where fat will get burned, so we don't encourage members to work out specific areas."

With a fight against genes, for the Indian woman, being slim wouldn't guarantee a thigh gap. "You would have to be very determined in your workout regime to acquire it," says Astha.

Extreme measure
What would work then, counter- productively of course, would be extreme diets. Some women choose to go the surgical route.

Cosmetic surgeons across Mumbai admit to receiving a steady stream of clients asking for fat removal from their thighs.

Dr Zachariah, who gets six patients a month for fat removal from the thighs, says the demand has functional reasons too. In not-so-slim-bodies, the inner thighs rub against each other, making walking tiresome. If the thighs are constantly pressed against each other, not only does the skin in the area turn dark and irritable, in our humid weather, it could lead to yeast infections.

Dr Mohan Thomas, cosmetic surgeon at Breach Candy Hospital & Cosmetic Surgery Institute explains that in the west, the obsession with thin thighs is as old as the beach culture. "When I was a medical student in the US, we'd call it letting the light through the idea being that when there's a silhouette with the legs joined together, light should be able to pass through the legs."

Dr Thomas receives four patients a week, concerned about thick thighs. He says they may not use the term 'thigh gap', but are pre-occupied about the area nevertheless.

Delhi-based blogger Swati Ailawadi, who writes at TheCreativeBent.com, put up a recent post against the thigh gap, asking readers if any of them were trying to achieve one. "While I didn't get any reader responses on it, I had heard from a friend that a lot of female students were trying to achieve it just before they are to begin college," she says over the phone.

But who really requires one?
Fashion designer Prasad Bidappa, who has mentored generations of models, including Deepika Padukone, says only supermodels who walk the ramp need bother. "When you are on ramp, you have to be a certain body type. And most of these women have that shape naturally, which is enhanced by years of exercise and a certain diet," he says, adding, "We get girls as young as 14 wanting to be models. Some of them aren't tall, or are voluptuous. They may never become ramp models but they are good for print modelling and for acting in TV and films. But we don't encourage them to go for surgery. If you can't get it from working out, don't aspire for it."

And to those willing to go to dietary extremes, Dr Thomas shares some bad news, "Starving won't help losing fat from regions like the butt and thigh."

Dr Purwa Duggal, a nutritionist with Fortis Hospital, says stubborn fat in areas such as thighs, hips, butt etc. are influenced by oestrogen. Prolonged starvation does not necessarily mean burning fat. It may initially cause muscle wasting or utilisation of glycogen stores.

Catecholamines, which are fight or flight hormones produced in the body in response to stress, are required to burn fat. "Blood flow to stubborn fat areas is usually very poor, as a result, the catecholamines are unable to reach the area to mobilise the fat. Even if the fat is mobilised, while it continues to be in the blood stream, it may get re-deposited in the original areas," she adds. However, both she and macrobiotic nutritionist Shonali Sabherwal agree that a controlled diet excluding unhealthy fats, processed food and sugars complimented with focussed exercise, under supervision, may aid in developing the desired muscle tone over time.

Anushka's pins
We saw it in scenes where she wore itsy bitsy shorts in her last Shah Rukh Khan-starrer. Actor Anushka Sharma has a thigh gap, which we are certain young girls admire especially when they dream of slipping into hot pants and skinny jeans.

The legs that sparked the trend
Twenty one-year-old British model Cara Delevingne's legs are the torchbearers of the thigh gap obsession that's haunting social networking sites. There's even a Twitter ID dedicated to them. Bloggers post pictures of themselves following their weight-loss journey to achieve the gap. This has made parental experts and counsellors see red, resulting in anti-thigh gap movements including Tumblr sites Touching Thighs and No Thigh Gap.

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